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No. 23 Pitt Men’s Soccer battles No. 9 Duke to scoreless stalemate in final home match

Pitt men's Soccer

PITTSBURGH — No. 23 Pitt men’s soccer battled with a tough No. 9 Duke squad to a scoreless stalemate Saturday night at Ambrose Urbanic Field in the final regular season home match of 2023.

The Panthers (6-4-4) (W-L-D) make it two straight seasons with 0-0 draws with the Blue Devils (8-3-2) and stay unbeaten for six consecutive matches in the all-time series since 2019. The draw also keeps the Panthers unbeaten at home in the ACC (2-0-2), the first time since 2021 when they won all four home regular season matches. It is also the second straight clean sheet for the Panthers, who defeated rival Duquesne, 2-0 in the “City Game” at home on Tuesday.

Pitt created most of the chances to start the match, moving the ball down the field and pressuring Duke. While many opportunities arose in the box, no real shots challenged Duke first-year goalkeeper Julian Eyestone, who only faced two Pitt shots none on goal.

The Blue Devils started to make some chances of their own later in the first half after they brought on some substitutes.

Sophomore midfielder Kenan Hot ripped a dipping shot on goal from outside the box, but Panthers sophomore goalkeeper Cabral Carter stayed strong and bent down to make the save in the 32nd minute.

Graduate student forward Fahimi Ibrahim and senior midfielder Luke Thomas both had good shots as well, but Carter managed to deal with them with relative ease to keep it scoreless at halftime.

Duke almost scored right after halftime, as junior midfielder Ruben Mesalles passed it to senior midfielder Nick Paraino right in the middle of the box, but Paraino put his shot right over the goal in the 46th minute.

Pitt saw great build up play through the midfield and the ball ended up at the feet of junior midfielder Guilherme Feitosa. Feitosa took one touch and put a shot on goal, but Eyestone got his left glove onto the shot to put it out for a corner in the 50th minute. Junior forward Luis Sahmkow then got the ball off a header on that corner, but his shot went wide right for a goal kick.

Sahmkow almost scored again in the 60th minute, as he took a shot right in the middle of the box that Eyestone stood in front of and saved. Sophomore forward Eben McIntyre got the rebound and shot it himself, but Eyestone again dove right at the shot to make an incredible save to keep the match scoreless.

The Blue Devils had their best chance to score in the 85th minute. Carter put in pass to senior midfielder Filip Mirkovic, but first-year midfielder/forward Bull Jorgensen pushed Mirkovic off the ball and faced just Carter in front of net. Jorgensen then put in a weak shot that Carter easily saved to keep it scoreless.

The Panthers had one last chance with less than 30 seconds before the clock hit 90 minutes. Junior left back Mateo Maillefaud had space and delivered in a great cross to Feitosa in the box. Feitosa rose up and beat Eyestone to the ball, heading it, but it went just wide right.

Pitt men’s soccer head coach Jay Vidovich was happy with the way his team played against a good Duke team and that outside of some chances not going their way, he really liked the performance overall.

“Saw a tremendous start to the match,” Vidovich said. “Proud of the way we managed the game. Got in some really good entries into the box, couple good opportunities. Last 35 to 40, I thought they, Duke, really made us suffer for a good five to 10 minutes in the first half and I thought we came back. Same thing their start was a little bit stronger in the second half, but after that, I thought we just did a really good job of negating their attack for the most part. The chances came out on mistakes and we created enough opportunities in the end, it just didn’t fall.”

Sophomore centre-back Jackson Gilman is one of the best players in his position in the country and played great once again for the Panthers. Serving as the captain, he commanded the backline once again and led the Panthers to their sixth clean sheet on the season and their fifth at home.

“Super close,” Gilman said. “I’m really proud of the effort the boys they put out there for 90 minutes. Duke’s a great team and a clean sheet was big for us at home. Definitely had opportunities to finish, but we’re happy with the result.

Gillman has played and started every match dating back to last season. He said that Pitt has done well so far this season and the difficult opponents they play set them up for success later in the postseason.

“There’s definitely been some ups and downs, but we’re in a great spot for the end of the regular season,” Gilman said. “We’ve had a really tough schedule this year and that’s the way we like it at Pitt. Just play the toughest opponents, so we can get deep in the tournament off those opportunities. You’re just ready for everything. We’ve had a good season so far, but it’s got to be better in the postseason.”

Pitt men’s soccer will face ACC Coastal Divisional Champs No. 6 Notre Dame next Friday, Oct. 27, on the road in their final regular season match of the season. The ACC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament will follow that.

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